NXNE Day IV—Celebrating Community at the CBC Radio3 Picnic

During this year’s NXNE, Toronto’s great music festival, Honourary Canadian is publishing guest posts by Regina Sienra, aka Reginula, a music journalist who hails from Mexico City. She’s a stalwart fan of Canadian indie music, and has been recognized by the CBC Radio 3 community as our Fan of the Year. You can follow Regina on Twitter and Instagram where her handle is @Reginula. From one honourary Canadian to another, I’m delighted to be publishing her work here—Philip Turner.

Every June for the past five years, the CBC Radio 3 community has gathered in Toronto’s Trinity-Bellwoods Park for a fan picnic on the Saturday of NXNE to celebrate an extraordinary community that always supports and watches the back of the Canadian indie music scene.

Attendees from all over Canada, the US, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the UK, and other countries, savor the opportunity to spend quality time with a handful of indie musicians who offer to play acoustic tunes at the picnic, gratis I should add. The performers this year were Kathryn Calder, David Vertesi, Rolfe Klausener from The Acorn and Murder Murder, a band that recently participated in CBC’s Searchlight contest, winning the Northern Ontario region. Among the hosts for the picnic is erstwhile Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence, who emcees the proceedings. The photo above shows all the picnickers and musicians in a group shot taken by Vancouver photographer Christine Macavoy.

Kathryn Calder performed a couple sons from her new, self-titled album, as well as her classic “Turn a Light On,” accompanied only by herself on acoustic guitar, which is pretty special considering Calder is more often seen playing keys with the The New Pornographers, who were slated to play Yonge-Dundas Square later that night.

David Vertesi, longtime member of the Vancouver band, Hey Ocean!, performed songs from his recent album “Cardiography,” and although he only had a few hours of sleep after finishing a NXNE set at 3am that morning, Vertesi delivered a mesmerizing performance under the trees. David Vertesi

Rolf Klausener, introduced by CBC Radio 3’s Lana Gay, performed “Dominion,” from his Polaris long-listed album, as well as songs from her earlier work, sharing some stories about his family and how his 2008 Polaris-Prize nominated album Glory Hope Mountain was inspired by his mom’s journey as an immigrant from Nicaragua to Canada.

The New Pornographers are true headliners, which earned them the prime time slot Saturday night at Yonge-Dundas Square. Performing after California sensation Best Coast and Canadian act Mise en Scene, the Pornos hit the stage without longtime members Destroyer and Neko Case (she was in the NYC area for the Clearwater Festival).

To make up for the absence of the auburn-haired crooner, the band crammed some other hits in to the setlist and, as in the past years, Kathryn Calder took charge of Neko’s songs.

Rather than focusing on 2014’s “Brill Bruisers,” the band went through their entire history and played songs like “Slow Descent into Alcoholism,” “Sing me Spanish Techno” and “All the Old Showstoppers,” closing the evening at a packed YDS with fan favorite “The Bleeding Heart Show.”

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NXNE 2015 Day III, Enjoying Born Ruffians & Hollerado at Yonge-Dundas Square

Because I couldn’t be in Toronto for this year’s NXNE, the city’s great music festival, Honourary Canadian is publishing guest posts by Regina Sienra, aka Reginula, a music journalist who hails from Mexico City. She’s a stalwart fan of Canadian indie music, recognized by the CBC Radio 3 community as our Fan of the Year. You can follow Regina on Twitter and Instagram where her handle is @Reginula. From one honourary Canadian to another, I’m delighted to be publishing her work here! Philip Turner, Publisher, The Great Gray Bridge and Honourary Canadian.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 6.00.33 PM

One of the best opportunities NXNE offers live music fans is close proximity to both new and classic acts from the local Toronto and Ontario scene, as well as acts from the rest of Canada and internationally. On Friday, the ones in charge of that approach were the guys from MusicOntario, who threw an afternoon party at The Garrison.

KASHKA, latest project from Kat Burns, leader of the seminal band founded in 2006, Forest City Lovers, performed at this party around 5 in the afternoon, an unusual set time for her. “I feel a vampire,” and it’s understandable, her electronic sound—rather than the indie, almost folk sound from her earlier projects—would fit better at a nighttime party. Still, Kat and her bandmates delivered a relaxing set that included tracks from her 2014 release “Bound.”

One of the biggest shows of the festival had just been announced only four days earlier: Hollerado and Born Ruffians would play a free show at Yonge and Dundas Square on Friday night. YDSQ is like the Times Square of Toronto, and crowds are big at these NXNE shows, especially with two big Ontario acts, definitely what NXNE must’ve been hoping for when they booked the show.

Always stylish and rhythmic Born Ruffians hit the stage around 8:30, opening with their latest single “Oh Cecilia.” The setlist included songs from all of their albums, pleasing both long time fans and newcomers. Singer Luke Lalonde is a charming man on stage indeed, but bassist (Name)’s energy on stage and virtuosity is the soul of the band. Luke Lalonde announced they will be releasing a new album later this year.

Up next came Hollerado, with a brand new female member to help the quartet on keys, guitar, and backing vocals. First song of the set was “Pick Me Up,” the upbeat track from their 2013 release, “White Paint.” Stage props were brought in to play as that first tune that included lots of strewn confetti. Also, when the band played “Firefly,” a song from their recent effort, “111 Songs,” several personalities came on stage to throw white illuminated balls onto the crowd.

The set also included some new songs that will be on Hollerado’s next album. From those samples, it’s somewhat noticeable the band has moved on from their striking sound to a calmer, a là “Pinkerton” sound.

Down west on Dundas Street, CBC Music also held a showcase featuring Jane’s Party, Iceage (a Danish band), CATL and Ben Caplan, the latter being joined by a band called The Casual Smokers, a group of musicians Caplan himself discovered on Queen St in Toronto. The sheer number of musicians on stage enhanced the intense presentation of Caplan, the bearded singer whose voice often resembles an articulate growl.

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First Night of NXNE 2015, Great Start to a Favorite Urban Festival

During this year’s NXNE, Toronto’s great music festival, Honourary Canadian will be publishing guest posts by my friend Regina Sienra, aka Reginula, a music journalist who hails from Mexico City. She’s a stalwart fan of Canadian indie music, and has been recognized by the CBC Radio 3 community as our Fan of the Year.  Below is a shot of Reginula (l.) with CBC Radio 3 host Lana Gay. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram where her handle is @Reginula. From one honourary Canadian to another, I’m delighted to be publishing her work here—Philip Turner. 

The 2015 edition of NXNE kicked off slowly, but in an extremely powerful way. After some major changes on the administrative side, Northby got rid of the Interactive section, changed the ticketing deal—now some special shows require an extra ticket—and added several new venues to their roster, including a new NXNE hub (bye, bye awkward process at the Hyatt) at the intersection of Queen and Spadina, near where much of the festival action happens at legendary venues like the Horseshoe Tavern, the Rivoli, and Cameron House.

As usual, it’s not common to see the big names on the first day of the schedule, but this doesn’t mean one can’t bump into old favorites and make great new discoveries.

The Royal Foundry is definitely among the latter category, an exciting discovery for me. Hailing from Edmonton, this duo is comprised of Jared and Bethany, a couple married for about 18 months and a musical ensemble for about twice that span. They recently won the Northern Alberta region of CBC Music’s Searchlight contest, and though it’s just the two of them on stage, they are a force of nature producing mesmerizing upbeat folk filled with romantic lyrics. Despite the early hour for the show (8pm) and the small venue, the crowd was very engaged by the duo’s performance (Thanks to @shonicar3 for use of her Instagram picture of Royal Foundry).

Back on Spadina and Queen at the Horseshoe Tavern for a 9pm set, I enjoyed hearing Girlfriends and Boyfriends who brought their heavily influenced ’80s rock east from Vancouver. They play a rather different musical genre than what’s currently coming out of the west coast scene. It was a fun warm up for the powerful bands that would hit the stage later.

A more roots option was available a few steps down Queen Street at the Rivoli, with NQ Arbuckle, front man of a perennially popular local alt-country outfit, and a favorite of CBC host Tom Power. NQ (stands for Neville Quentin) delivered a set full of hits and emotion, as he and his great band have done for many years. His banter was filled with stories about the songs, the set was perfect to take a seat and get ready for what was about to unfold over the next couple sets of live music. (Thanks to @shonicar3 for use of her Instagram picture of NQ and gang).

Moon King, local wonder praised by international media, was one of the biggest names of the night, fulfilling everyone’s expectations of what powerful and intense shoegaze rock sounds like. Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde were joined by a bassist and a drummer in a set only a bit longer than thirty minutes that left everybody hungry for more from them.

Greylands, a garage rock side project of Cuff the Duke’s Wayne Petti was the option I chose to say goodnight to the first night of NXNE, with no mellowing down required. Mind-numbing distortion is put on the spotlight during Greylands sets, which is completed by Petti’s actions on and off stage, throwing his guitar away and hitting it against a monitor to create even more distortion. For those curious about this band, they will play again during Paper100, a highlight of the NXNE schedule, celebrating the work of Paperbag records. I’m eager to for Day II!

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‘I Blame the Loyalist Ghost,’ Video and Song from Shawn Clark’s New Album

Shawn Clarke, NXNE 2014Charming video for ‘I Blame the Loyalist Ghost,’ a song from Toronto musician Shawn William Clark‘s second album due out 9/23, produced by James Bunton, longtime drummer in Ohbijou. The song begins with the sound of a plucked 4-string tenor guitar, then Clarke plays every instrument in the piece. Enjoy this—it’s like a lazy summer day with balloons and ribbons floating in the sky. I heard Clark during the first night of NXNE this past June, and enjoyed his act a lot. I look forward to hearing his whole album.

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Making Toronto a World Class Music City

As I’d documented as recently as this past June, when I posted here about my visit to Toronto for the annual NXNE festival, the city has a fabulous music scene, with many great local bands and dozens of superb venues. I’m excited to see that now a coalition of artists, promoters, and civic officials have banded together to promote the cultivation of music as an economic driver in the city. View the video here or above: http://ow.ly/Ba3kh

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My NXNE Storify: “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014”

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI

Enjoying Amity Beach’s “Bonfire Etiquette,” Ontario Pop Band’s New Album

Bonfire EtiquetteGoing to a music festival with dozens of acts on the bill, and getting to hear and see personal favorites–maybe bands you’ve only heard on record, or bands you’re getting to see live for a second time–is a distinct pleasure, but another joy not to be overlooked is making serendipitous discoveries of new bands, new music you’d have never heard and enjoyed otherwise. In 2011, the first year I attended NXNE, that happened when I heard Winnipeg band Imaginary Cities for the first time, with dynamite lead singer Marti Sabit; in 2013, the same thing happened for me with Sudbury, Ontario group Almighty Rhombus, a brother band whose sound I found lots of fun; in 2012 one of my discoveries was Amity Beach, a band from Grand Bend, Ontario whose enthusiasm, energy, and hooky tunes I really enjoyed that June night. This was part of the post I wrote the next morning:

Last night’s musical performances were everything I had hoped they would be. Early in the evening, at 8 PM, I went to hear a set by a little-known band called Amity Beach. They were a young five-piece from Grand Bend, Ontario, 18-year olds who play their own songs and some great covers. Afterward, at the merch table I met the dad of the lead singer, who gave me their EP and told me of the band’s origins and how they’re writing and recording their own music. I enjoyed learning about their process. 

Amity BeachAmity Beach

I’ve enjoyed their EP, especially the opening track, “Jake’s Version of Paradise.” I didn’t like all the songs uniformly, but what was good on the disc was very likable. My first impression of them is affirmed now by their first full-length album. It’s called “Bonfire Etiquette” and it’s terrific. They’re definitely evolving as a band, with a fuller sound and a higher calibre set of compositions. I’m really enjoying the new batch of ten songs (nine original, one cover). I hear a bit of Arkells in their sound now, especially the punchy rhythm section that opens the first track “Sunday Nights to Infinity.” The feel and sound is all their own, though, with uptempo, slightly staccato arrangements. Their vocals, mostly by Geoff Baillie, are also getting better, with him singing his own lyrics about off-balance modern moments mixed with persistent striving. My faves are the opener; “Crown Victoria,” with a sort of car+relationship lyric (it’s not an ode to the automobile make & model that dominates the New York City yellow taxi fleet); “Born in the Daylight,” with female backing vocals, and “Comet Stop,” the album closer, with the rueful line, “All we have in common is we made the same mistakes.” The vocals and guitars guitars are stronger, with added accents from horns they play themselves, and bright keyboard sounds. Amity Beach may have a new hand or two on deck, as I think I see some unfamiliar faces on the photo that goes with their new album. At any rate, they’re continuing to grow, and very impressively here.

Band photoThis is a link to “Born in the Daylight” from their soundcloud.com page. I hope you like it, too. I recommend the whole album, which you can sample at their tumblr. Really gets better the more you listen to it.

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Thinking of Toronto Today, and Friends There

CN Tower

 

 

Though I live in NYC, I have a kind of sibling-city relationship with Toronto, to which I travel each June for the NXNE festival, and which I’m connected to via the CBC and Internet radio; musical acts I follow; authors I’ve published with; and book biz colleagues over a long time, many of whom are good friends. The escalating situation involving their prevaricating mayor, Rob Ford, has compelled fascination among locals and many outside of Canada for weeks and months, since Gawker and the Toronto Star both reported that Ford was seen by reporters on videotape, smoking from a crack pipe. Late last week, TO Police Chief Blair revealed that his service had recovered a digital file of the tape, which had been missing for months (Ford had denied it ever existed.) At last, things may be peaking today, with Ford’s belated admission earlier that he had indeed smoked crack, supposedly “in a drunken stupor.” Right now, at 4:15 Tuesday, Election Day in NYC, I’m still listening to CBC Radio One from the Toronto newsdesk, as Ford has said he’ll be making one more statement on this day. The on-air people are vamping, just trying to fill up the time while City Hall, or more particularly, Rob Ford, has everyone waiting.

An interval just passed during the writing of this post, as 30 minutes ago Ford came out and gave a statement that was entirely a recapitulation of all his recent evasions and self-pitying refusals to step down. He says he is not stepping down, or even temporarily stepping aside from his office. Please note, the photo above shows the view toward downtown Toronto that I had from my hotel room the last time I stayed there, at the Alexandra Hotel on Ryerson Avenue, a quiet street located between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street on the east and west, and Queen Street and Dundas Street on the north and south. Nice view, huh? That’s CN Tower in the distance on the left.

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI